Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can Men and Women JUST Be Friends?

Good afternoon LOVEanese! Before I get into my topic, I just wanted to share two things. The first is a picture that I took in downtown Beirut:

Even the Beiruti sidewalks are catching on to the message!

The second is a really cool article that I saw in the AUB Main Gate magazine today:

It says "One day somebody will write a book about all the wonderful love stories that started on campus..." I sent them an e-mail telling them about my thesis and said, "I'm already way ahead of you!" :)

Just thought I'd share...

So, now, on to what I wanted to blog today about something I've seen going around Facebook and Twitter, and I figured now's a good time to talk about it since it's fresh in everyone's minds. There was a really cool video posted recently about whether men and women can be friends or not (the general rule being that they can't be friends). Basically, these two independent filmmakers went around and asked male and female students at Utah State University in America if they can be just platonic friends with someone from the opposite sex. You can check it out here:

Pretty powerful huh? More recently, this study (as reported in Scientific American) affirmed the validity of the pseudo-experiment conducted above. Well, in case you don't know, however, they weren't exactly the first to point this out. Hollywood has long purported this as "fact," and the person who is best known for making this idea famous was Harry from When Harry Met Sally (one of my favorite movies), and Oscar Wilde touched on it before as well in Lady Wildermere's Fan. Here's the famous scene from When Harry Met Sally:

So, that's what got it all started, and frankly, he may have a point. A lot has been written on the topic since as well. Before I get into whether or not men and women can enjoy platonic friendship, let's think about what's going on when two people want to be friends. As this author argues, basic platonic attraction comes out of sharing similar activities, values, communication styles, etc. that allow them to spend time together. So as individuals do things together that they both like, they often become friends. The article also has some great advice from relationship authors and scholars who have more to say about it (this podcast has a lot of great information too).

Some other really good articles and resources that talk about this are this one, this one (provides some examples/anecdotes), this one, and this one. In fact many people have tried to comment on this such as Chris Rock who has some wisdom and insight to share.

Even she has something to say about this! (RIP)

So, CAN men and women just be friends? The majority of the research so far actually says yes, they can be, but with conditions and rules. This author writing for Psychology Today (which has some really great resources) sums it up well:

"The point is that the majority of people believe friendships between the sexes is possible. The majority of people, I suspect, also know what their own parameters are and when those friendships are safe as friendships and when boundaries might be crossed. In that case, the friendship is at risk, and a marriage or partnership (if one of the friends is in one) may be in jeopardy.  I return to the need for transparency.  Know enough about yourself to understand when a friendship is possible and when you are being friendly with the hope of developing a love relationship -- the latter happens when you are physically as well as emotionally attracted to someone. There is no right or wrong way to do this but being honest with yourself (I admit I am being nice to this person in the hopes of getting them to like me) may prevent confusion and hurt feelings down the road."

Would a guy still sleep with a girl though, even if they were "just friends?" Research also suggest that yes, they would. In a study conducted by Bleske and Buss (2000: 131) found that "men perceived sex with their opposite-sex friends as more beneficial than did women. Women reported receiving protection from their opposite-sex friends more often than did men, and they perceived the protection as highly beneficial. Both men and women reported receiving information from opposite-sex friends about how to attract mates, and they perceived this information as beneficial." So, this reflects the video that I mentioned was going around. Men are perceived as being "protectors," whereas men tend to value the sex they can/do get from their opposite-sex friends. The authors relate this to evolutionary functioning.

What I would want to know is if this question of male-female platonic friendship can be achieved in the Arab world. As all of the above research/resources/articles all are framed within a non-Arab context, it just makes me wonder how these relationships are here. Moreover, it makes me wonder how these narratives are interacting with the local, pre-existing ones.

What do you think? Can they just be friends? Let me know if there's anything else I can expand further (I don't mind editing this (or any) post(s)).

Enjoy your friendships; spread the love,


Bleske, April L., and David M. Buss. 2000. "Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?" Personal Relationships, 7: 131-151.


  1. Of course they can be friends!
    I sleep with my male best friend in the same bed :)

    Nothing has happened, and nothing will ever happen!

    I love him so much... But no, thank you... He's my baby brother and I'm his baby sister too :)


  2. ^^^^^Rare, I bet if you gave him the chance he would stick u nastier then a porn flick...

  3. I think that the problem with friends wanting to sleep with each other is not necessarily restricted to male-female relationships. I probably am more at risk of sleeping with my female friends than my male friends (I am female) only because it would be a lot more taboo and damaging to sleep with my male friends in my social environment. (I live in New York so I cannot speak for Beirut). So I think you need to consider how people define the boundaries of friendship before you embark on this discussion. For example, my boyfriend grew up in Lebanon and considers a non-committal relationship a "friendship," which I wholeheartedly disagree with. (This could also be a problem of translation.)

  4. P.: It's more of the idea that we don't mind being friends, but if you gave us the option, we'd probably take you up on it. Basically what Anon #1 said haha.

    Anon #2: Interesting point-of-view, and thanks for sharing from so far away! I understand though, and even outside of this discussion, many people do not really define friendship. It has so many "fine lines," so it's really unclear where you are with a certain person at any given time.

  5. in the first video, all the guys said 'no' but all the girls said, 'yes'. hahahhahha

  6. This is a tricky subject ... I suppose it all depends on the personality of a person or what they are looking for out of a friendship. Some people do not get emotionally attached quickly and so being friends with someone from the opposite sex is not an issue. Others are just reserved and don't share much with others. As for me, my closest friends are people I can talk to about anything ... Most of them are girls, but one is a guy. Although I know it is only friendship we have, it is very easy to get attached and have emotions run wild.
    It's all about what the friendship is based on.

  7. I think I'd have to agree, im a female, and I have much more guy friends than I do girl friends, and I know the way they think, the girl is awesome, amazing, kind hearted, special, bla bla bla, but given the chance, they would probably take up the offer, and if not take it up, probably consider it at least :)

  8. Doesn't that kind of make you feel like that undermines your relationship?

    I think in the end men and women can be friends, but going back to what Harry said, often the possibility of it becoming sexual/romantic is still always there.

  9. hmmm the fact that every girl said 'yes' and every guy said 'no' implies that fundamentally 'friendship' means something different depending on your gender.

  10. Anon: That's a very insightful comment, you're definitely on to something. Bleske and Buss more or less found the same thing. Bear in mind that these filmmakers are just that: filmmakers, not actual researchers. But the concept is interesting nonetheless.

    The questions to ask is: why would guys--for instance the ones portrayed in the video--be so willing to sleep with their female friend(s) and how do men and women differ in their approach to friendship?

  11. Saw this posted on

    Thats it, just tell all the ladies in the world about our sneaky tricks and ulterior motives, fool. You’re ruining an age old angle of panty entry called “lets just be friends!”. Until of course the time is right and the wine bottle empty.. mua hahaha ;)

    Major Infidel on December 14, 2011 at 5:25 PM

  12. and this!

    Always? Or only if she’s physically attractive? Are the feelings the same, for example, when you encounter a Victoria’s Secret model or a contestant on The Biggest Loser?

    Shouldn’t the true title of this post be “Why Men and Attractive Women Can Never Be Friends”?

    Carolina21 on December 14, 2011 at 4:13 PM

  13. Didn't Harry already comment on that too? It doesn't matter (theoretically at least... based on a movie character's words).

  14. Good artical!
    As i all ready understood you're dealing with social research, so i recommand you to read the book of Philip Turchet "Codes inconscients de la s├ęduction". it's may deal with the same subject so hope you enjoy it and good luck!!
    @Anonymous 1: since you're "anonymous" why not you tell us the truth :p???are you sure that the "boyfriend" you are speaking about is a man??? :p

  15. Thanks a lot Anon! I don't speak French though, is there an English version?

  16. I really don't know if there is a version in english :(.
    in fact it's speak about synergologie, and body language, and in this book he tried to speak about unconsious part in humain been.
    he devoted this book to understand male-female way of seduction!! very interesting study because people do not tell evry thing in such subject, they always do not tell the truth!!
    it's really a prety good book!
    In fact i'm intrested in such science and your blog is very good man!! i'll try to read your blogs now on ;)

  17. You're so nice, thank you so much Anon! I really appreciate the kind words :) It is a pleasure to spread around the resources and social scientific literature. This blog is really something I take pride in. Glad you like it :)

    And thanks for the info on the book!

  18. I love that in the video, all women said yes when all men said no.

    If you had asked me this question a couple of years ago, I would have said yes. However, as I have become more experienced with men, my opinions changed. The paragraph from Psychology Today that you quoted sums it up pretty correctly. I now sometimes find myself wondering what it'd be like to be with my closest friends, whether in a relationship or physically. This doesn't happen with every guy friend I have, but mostly the close ones who know a lot about me and know how to talk to me or have given me advice on love issues before.

    When it comes to the concept of (excuse my eloquency) your close friend sticking it in you given the chance, I am not sure how easily this happens in the Arab world. A lot of women are not comfortable talking about their sex life in front of their friends, especially male friends that tend to be protective of them, so acting on the urge to sleep with your friend can be more challenging than it is abroad. I am not saying it doesn't happen, it happens and probably often, but it can be trickier. For instance, I have a friend who lives abroad and is sexually active over there, however he has a hard time accepting the fact that we can be just as active here. This is someone who is open minded and educated, but to him, Arab women are less open about their sexuality and therefore willing to do a lot less when there is no commitment, a relationship, be it marriage or not. This may be completely untrue, but the point is had he been attracted to me, he would not initiate any physical intimacy. It would need alcohol, and lots of it, and maybe some hints from my part. If you are wondering, yes, I have thought about it.

    I am not sure how much sense I am making, my apologies.

  19. Anon: I think you're absolutely right. And minus the small demographic that pretty much is the Hamra night-life, I'd say many people here in Lebanon don't have as easy of an ability to do so either (than they do in the US for instance). It's just more available there, the ability to act I mean. Also, alcohol is often a catalyst to this ;)

    You make perfect sense actually, thank you for sharing!

  20. The discussion here is very rich, it's really pretty interresting to study the relationship between man, female and friends!!
    can male and female be just a friend? yes they do (i think so).
    but the problem how? and what's the way to realize this "man and woman friend"?
    this is the question? is sex a good initiative to realize such relation ship? personaly i don't think so.
    I really support the fact that it should be "frames" between them.
    You could build this "frames" from your own experience, but you should do a lot of mistake and probably you will never have a good one.
    (i suggest that you think about such subject ogie and let's us discuss it in a new blog ;)).
    A second point that i found interesting in this blog (and comments) is arab world.
    They have a different concept of this relation ship, different from our.
    I have red a lot of articals about such subject. And to be bref, sex is not allowed between male and female even there is a part of them that they do.
    It's due to customs, sex is not accepted in the Arab world. a lot of them are conservative people.
    Also it's due to the majority part of them, who are muslim, and Islem doesn't allow sex before mariage.
    Personally i agree with the arab world in such way organising this relation ship, even here in my country we don't have arab people, but it's a good culture to know, may be in lebanon you have many so you know better than me there customs.

  21. Anon: You're right, it's not a question of yes they can or no they can't, it's how can they period.

    Haha, I'm not sure though if I could blog about it as a whole. I don't know much more than what I posted here.

    Although I often talk in general terms, this blog was conceived with an Arab, and more specifically, a Lebanese audience in mind. There are so few resources available regarding love, romance, relationships, and dating that I wanted what I do, what I study, my work to be an outlet.

    I'm not sure where you're writing from, but bear in mind there is a lot of various belief systems here in the Arab world, and in Lebanon in particular. It's unwise to generalize. For instance, Christianity doesn't allow, or at least encourage, sex before marriage either. But all religious values aside, it is interesting how friendship is culturally constructed and governed here.

    Where are you from? I'm sure there's Arabs there ;)

  22. hahaha you're amazing ogie, Yes in fact , i speak arab, but i'm not arabic (beleive it) and in my mother country,a few arab yes, not a lot.
    i'll not tell you i'm from where but i'll will present my self as blogger too. I'll not share my blog with you since you don't speak frensh or arabic :p.
    But beleive it or not i'm so interested in such way organising relationship between humain been. sincerly as i'm making my own reseach i'm open to speak about culture, sociologie, religion.. you will find me present in a lot of blogs.
    all these sciences are so interesting for me.

    The question you are dealing with is interesting for me. i'm trying to know how psychologie is building such relation? how you, sociologist, you are answering this question and how religion is answering?? until now and as i mentioned, my personal point of view that the most perfect way to build a "just friend" man-female, is arab culture. in there religion it's really pretty indicated how to realize this relation ship, i enjoyed that. I'm also okay that these concept is not well realized in arab world, yes u'r right ;).
    2- you gived me and interesting subject also to study "Christianity doesn't allow, or at least encourage, sex before marriage either". i really didn't understand how? could please ogie share an artical where i can find there concept? not all the bible please ;).

  23. Anon: Haha fair enough, no problem. And you're right, I'm taking a sociological point-of-view, not a theological or psychological one.

    Secondly, you can easily just Google "Christianity and Sexuality," but the best place to look would probably be Pope John Paul II's lectures on the Theology of the Body. You can check out some links:




    Another resource is a book by someone I once knew called "Couples in Love: Straight Talk on Dating, Respect, Commitment, Marriage, and Sexuality" found on Amazon:

    Hope that helps :)

  24. i really apriciate your friendly way of responding :) thanks a lot. I'll try to read them and make a comparision.
    thank again ogie, i liked discussing with someone who like the job he is doing.
    learn frensh and arabic :p coz i'll be very glad if one day you will comment any of my blogs.

    have a happy new year. :)

  25. from my experience. living in lebanon. friendship between sexes definetely did NOT seem remotely possible or even exist. I know I tried and failed. Next thing I knew the person in question would be trying to take the friendship in another direction. To the point where I became completely paranoid of men's advances - no matter how innocent they seemed. 2 weeks in the western world and I was positive it was not me, it was the culture I was living in.

    I never sensed or could see women to be fully relaxed around men. I'm starting to think maybe with different social classes or groups it is different (and more western way of thinking is in the minority) but for the most part, it all seemed pretty old school in the way men behave around women and vice versa. I could not envision a lebanese girl talking openly and candidly about sex problems/issues (for ex) to a male friend.


  26. as I have already promised, I try to be inform about "Christianity and Sexuality." I found it too paradoxical, They allow, They Do not allow!!
    They claim also that "Sexuality" is not a man-female relation, but god-female, un-logical for me!!!
    so think you for sharing, but it's not well understood in there bible.